Monday, November 24, 2014

Here's a Little Something to Chew On . . .

. . . while I cook up a storm of new stuff in my kitsch kitchen.  It's my latest shipment of gumball beads!  Sure, the shot's a little blurry and the arrangement of the beads is a little haphazard, but I think the promise of exciting projects to come still shines through.  I'm not ashamed to admit that gumball beads are one of my latest obsessions (another is toy tea sets -- but more on that next time).  I love how they manage to marry the cray cray and the everyday (despite my vow to never say, much less write, the word "cray cray," the siren call of that rhyme really snared me) in a look that's fun and easy but still full of flavor -- just like gumballs themselves (imaginary gumballs, that is, not the real ones that taste like wallpaper paste after five or six chews).

Speaking of crafting (and, really, when are we not speaking of it?), I couldn't help but notice some DIY references in last week's sitcoms.  First there was Monday's episode of  "Two Broke Girls," in which an exuberant if misguided yarn enthusiast is bent on beatifying Brooklyn one crocheted fire hydrant cozy at a time.  Then Tuesday had "New Girl's" Jess admitting, "I craft so hard!" upon learning that her crush boasts a yarn collection (yes, yarn again!) rivaling her own.  On Wednesday, "The Middle's" Brick brought a date to Thanksgiving dinner clad in a turkey-print dress that most definitely did not come from a factory.  And finally, on Thursday, "The Big Bang Theory" featured Sheldon shutting down his beloved Fun with Flags podcast series only to resurrect it after reading the comment of a viewer who "kind of liked it."  Although a podcast isn't exactly decoupage (not to mention that Shelly would shudder at the thought of getting Mod Podge on his fingers), the creative, off-kilter element of the flag fiesta is of the same sentiment.

And that's that.  As Turkey Day draws near, may your sweet potatoes be marshmallow studded and your cranberry sauce can-shaped instead of lumpy.  After the bird has been butchered, I'll be carving out some time to string my gumballs.   I can only hope that my apple crisp turns out half as tasty.

Monday, November 10, 2014

It's Only a Paper Shoe

Every Christmas I get a Workman Publishing shoe calendar.  And every year (well, every year later), I cut out the pictures because they're too exquisite to throw away.  Here's a sampling of my stash:

So, some weeks ago, in the spirit of my recent use-every-part-of-the-pig crafting ethic, I decided to make some of them into brooches.  At first, I was pretty excited.  I glued and rhinestoned and ribboned, all the while thinking, "Hey, I'm on to something!"  But, then, without warning, the whole enterprise began to seem kind of doomed, the pieces shaping up to be -- for lack of a better word -- wonky.  It was all very disappointing, kind of like spotting the perfect pair of pumps on a far-off department store riser only to find out that they have kitten heels.  But such is life, so often trampled by the foibles of footwear.  I'll either wear them myself or add them to my free gift grab bag, but I won't list them.

Dress: J. C. Penney's

(No need to adjust your monitor; those are indeed two different shoes that you're seeing.  Although I've never braved the look myself [too much uneven pavement out there] it's my nod to Helena Bonham Carter, who's done just that on more than one red carpet.)

Pink T-strap: Payless
Blue leopard pump: Ami Clubwear
Black scarf: J. C. Penney's
Belt: B Fabulous
Bow scarf: Gifted
Fuchsia scarf: Express
Sunglasses: Kohl's
Bag: Fred Flare

On an unrelated note, I may have given Halloween candy short shrift last week.  Since then I've been scarfing down the leftover fun-sized snacks, an experience that reintroduced me to the joys of Twizzler-tinged Milky Ways and Snickers-scented Dots, flavor mash-ups that could come only from the fragrant fracas of a Halloween candy bowl.  Chocolate and fruit, delightfully artificial and all up in each other's grill -- it doesn't get any sweeter than that.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Many (Masked) Faces of Tammy

 Rad Ribbons Necklace

Dress: Modcloth
Sweater: Marshalls
Shoes: J. C. Penney's
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Ross
Belt: Wet Seal

Top: Kohl's
Skirt: Material Girl, Macy's
Shoes: Venus
Bag: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's

Top: Kohl's
Skirt: Eric & Lani, Macy's
Shoes: Kohl's
Bag: Target
Belt: Marshalls

It's no secret that I've always been a little suspect of Halloween.  Partly because of the ghouls and what have you, partly because it's a holiday that revolves around food (if Reese cups can be called food) instead of stuff.  I'm told that after my first time trick-or-treating, I lined up my candy instead of eating it.  Which sounds about right, considering that whenever I got a goody bag at the end of a birthday party, I was more excited about the stickers than the Tootsie roll pops.  Still, I decided to trick Tammy out in this pumpkin pail on the heels of this Halloween weekend.  The husband was kind enough to slice out the bottom (almost as if he were carving a real pumpkin!), making for a much better fit.  My first round of pictures, which featured the intact pumpkin awkwardly perched on top of Tammy's neck instead of around it, were downright frightening, and not in the good way. 

Speaking of treat bags (which I was, albeit a paragraph ago), A. C. Moore is now packaging jewelry supply purchases in fancy pink and black shopping bags, complete with pink tissue paper.  A far cry from the standard Thank You for Shopping-style white plastic bags that they used to give you, and in fact still do at the rest of the registers (the jewelry register is now sequestered from the other checkouts, giving the jewelry department an exclusive, boutique-y feel), it's just the sort of "carrier bag" that Confessions of a Shopaholic's Rebecca Bloomwood would have displayed on the back of her bedroom door.  Although I haven't gone that far, I still have mine, just waiting to fill it with something awesome.  Like maybe some beads shaped like candy.         

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bittersweet Stuff: Sparks and Citrus

 Pineapple Paradise Brooch

Top: (which is really a dress!) Lauren Conrad, Kohl's
Skirt: (Which is also really a dress!) XOXO
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Nine West, Boscov's
Belt: Marshalls
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

 Sky and Sea Necklace

Cardigan: Kohl's
Tank: Boscov's
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Loop, Marshalls
Belt: Marshalls
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

Green and Yellow Stellar Speller Necklace

Dress: Macy's
Sweater: Macy's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Kohl's
Sunglasses: Rampage, Boscov's

When I saw Nicholas Sparks's The Best of Me last week, I knew that I would blog about it.  After all, I'd read and blogged about the book, and I never pass up the opportunity for a good Sparks novel-and-movie-adaptation rap sesh.  I could only hope that whatever projects I'd completed by then would coincide with some shard of the story.  For example, I had a pair of ribbon rose-bedecked barrettes in the back of my mind that all but screamed romance (the fact that they were to be repurposed from my wedding decorations was just a bonus.)  But now it's blog post time, and those buds have yet to blossom.  Instead I'm stuck with a near-flagrant mix of green, yellow, and orange ornaments, an orchard of over-the-topness too showy to herald the highlights of a sweetly old-fashioned Sparks saga.

Or is it?  Does it not reflect the same tart-yet-treacly -- dare I say bittersweet -- quality of a Sparks tearjerker?  (Never mind that the tears brought on by lemons and limes are more likely the result of brushing one's eye with a juice-tainted finger as opposed to watching an unrequited love story.)  For this blogger, the answer to that rhetorical question is an unequivocal yes.  And so it's from such a suspect springboard that I dive into the heart of this post's dissertation.  (Somewhere out there an English professor is rolling his or her eyes at my use of the D word.  Also that I'm associating it with Nicholas Sparks.) 

To begin, I'll just come out and say it: this is one of those rare times when the movie is better than the book, a judgment I can soundly make having read the book first.  (Not that that stopped me from re-reading it after the credits rolled.  A stickler for details, I always like to see what was changed.)  Sure, the big screen version makes use of all the usual tricks, which is to say that its plot is more streamlined and dramatic than the book's.  Although such liberties are often necessary to make the written word pop, they sometimes come at the expense of quality, resulting in something that is -- for lack of a better word -- cheesy.  Not so in this case.  If anything, the plot tweaks only heighten the effect of the story.  Yet it is the medium of the movie itself that most convincingly places us in Dawson and Amanda's shoes (I forgot to mention that they're the star-crossed lovers this time, what with all the hoopla about adaptation and orchards), and that's because it invokes that emotional powerhouse known as the flashback.  

Indeed, the first blast from the past opens with Dawson at the local teen hangout, Toad the Wet Sprocket's "All I Want" swelling in the background when Amanda speeds by in a car full of jocks blaring "Whoot There it Is," changing his life forever.  It's amazing how quickly music can tell you what's up.  That is, troubled outcasts tune in to Toad, whereas A-listers listen to stuff that sounds best on a basketball court.  The movie's focus on Dawson and Amanda's teen romance draws from that classically heady everyone's-against-us, young-love elixir, giving it a very Notebook-y vibe.  And why not?  The past is an aphrodisiac.  In The Notebook, it was the early 1940s, and in The Best of Me, it's the early 1990s.  The pull of memories in both is magnetic, bringing a sense of urgency to the present day.  What's more, I can't help but feel that the 1990s were made for Sparks stories, that era's flowered dresses and moody alt rock an ideal soundtrack to fall in love to.  So much more spot on than the 1980s, which was when the book took place.  Not that kids didn't crush hard to hair bands and hairspray.  But those trappings are more rom com than drama, and as such somehow less compelling.

I could go on about the subtle discrepancies in the print and screen versions.  But the most pointed difference is the way that those crazy kids broke up.  Now, I've (for the most part) left my spoiler days behind, but this post means nothing if I don't say this.  In both renditions, Dawson ends up in jail (different circumstances for each, although neither are directly his fault).  In the book, Sparks tells us that "in four years, he [Dawson] never had a single visitor" (39).  Yet in the movie, Amanda shows up every single day for a year.  Dawson never agrees to see her (per the usual baloney of being cruel to be kind for her own good), but she makes the trips anyway with Notebook-worthy I-wrote-you-every-day-for-a-year kind of grand gesture devotion.  To me, this makes all the difference, drawing a line between a borderline fling and the real deal.  In the movie, Amanda goes to great lengths to challenge Dawson's loner status, even though doing so isolates her from her family and friends.  In the book she just goes off to college.  Which is, of course, more realistic.  But who in her right mind wants realistic? 

No one, that's who.  Except for maybe some scurvy-struck cynic who doesn't like citrus.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The ABCs of Accessories

Top: J. C. Penney's
Skirt: J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Payless
Bag: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: Candie's, Kohl's

Blouse: Target
Sweater: DKNY, Macy's
Skirt: Candie's, Kohl's
Shoes: Unlisted, Marshalls
Bag: Kohl's
Sunglasses: Cloud Nine, Ocean City boardwalk

Dress: Macy's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Journeys
Belt: Marshalls
Sunglasses: Cloud Nine, Ocean City boardwalk
Scarf: Express

Dress: Eric and Lani
Shoes: Venus
Bag: Target
Belt: B Fabulous

I stumbled upon these plastic alphabet beads and couldn't help but get all nostalgic.  If kiddie couture is the heart of kawaii, then letters are Lolita's linchpins.  Or something.  So I thought it would be fun to list accessories' greatest hits, the ABCs of accessories, if you will, acrostic-style, as told by the Tote Trove.

A is for adhesive.  Or, to be more precise, permanent adhesive glue.  I use oodles of it now that I'm doing things right and going the nontoxic route.  The less bad stuff in your glue, the less chance you have of a lasting bond.   Which is, interestingly, the opposite of the way things work in real relationships (hey, they don't call it toxic togetherness syndrome for nothing). 

C is for clothes, a. k. a. accessories' second-fiddle canvas.

C is for cabochons.  Because they're pretty and sound pretty cool.

E is for escape, the kind you make when blissfully beading, not listening to that unfortunate (yet still catchy) Rupert Holmes song.

S is for the sitcoms I watch while I make things.  This weekend it was eight back-to-back episodes of "Garfunkel & Oates."  And right now it's a rerun of "Modern Family" in which Phil, coincidentally, spouts off an acrostic poem about real estate.

S is for supplies, supplies, and more supplies.  And also for snacks.

O is for outlandish.  'Nuff said.

R is for rhinestones . . . and reruns (see S).

I is for island motifs worn in winter.

E is for embellishment, that essential element of style and (sometimes) story-telling.

S is for sequins.  Don't listen to what people say; they make everything better (although not as much as rhinestones).

So, accessories are pretty powerful.  So much so that I found myself maybe kind of wanting to buy a mixed lot of Bakelite jewelry as I read Susan Gloss's debut novel, Vintage.  Partly because you can't get bedbugs from plastic, but also because of the power.  As you know, I regularly commit hipster sacrilege by admitting that I don't really "get" vintage (on account of the "used" factor, not the style factor.  The style is usually tops.  And thankfully is often able to be replicated by your nearest big box store in never-before-worn polyester for less than it costs to fill your gas tank).  So it might seem a little odd that I picked up this book during a toilet paper run at Target.  But I liked the cover, which features a red-accessorized wedding dress, and I've never been one to pass up a tale about retail (as my many Shopaholic series references attest), no matter how gently used.   

Vintage is the story of Violet Turner, a vintage-worshiping, rockabilly style-rocking ex-waitress who flees her one-horse town and hard-drinking husband to fulfill her lifelong dream of opening a vintage boutique.  The cleverly coined Hourglass Vintage presides over a picturesque street in freewheeling Madison, Wisconsin, a city which is, apparently, the Portland-meets-Austin of the Midwest.  Violet is a vixen not to be messed with, and she has the phoenix tattoo to prove it.  So when she unexpectedly gets evicted, she immediately hatches a plan -- even if it means accepting the help of accidental intern and teen mom-to-be April and unhappy housewife and budding designer Amithi. Running away from your problems to start a store is a premise that probably appeals to most women.  It's plucky and gutsy and a little bit crazy, flirting fast and loose with "Why not?"  Still, if its irresistibility is what makes it fantastic, then it's the friendships between the three women that match its style with a little substance (sorry, but that one was bound to rear its well-coiffed head sooner or later).  Which is to say that they aren't instant book club buddies.  Their relationships grow more gradually, involving a good deal of guardedness on each other's part, never really (and I don't believe that I'm about to say this) blossoming even at the end.  April, for example, is incredibly pushy in trying to convince Violet to computerize her inventory instead of scribbling transactions in her beloved notebook.  Pregnant or not, I found her overbearing -- until Gloss explained that her controlling personality is a defense mechanism for dealing with her chaotic life (the unplanned pregnancy, as it turns out, is just one spoke in her wheelhouse of woe).  Violet eventually realizes this too, her soft-hearted nature emerging from beneath her tough outer shell.  

All in all, Vintage is a pretty pillbox hat of a story.  Gloss describes the Hourglass Vintage merchandise with equal parts nostalgia and glamour, charming even this staunch secondhand goods detractor.  Furthermore, she establishes the self-contained Violet as a formerly misunderstood teen queen instead of the usual high school outsider, making her quest for authenticity even more interesting.  

In addition to penning novels, Gloss also runs an Etsy vintage shop and writes a blog, making her a modern-day triple threat, hipster style.  Oh, and she's also a lawyer, a fact that comes across loud and clear in the sections about Violet's legal issues.  

That having been said, I'm off to troll Etsy for Bakelite.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An Eraser Chaser and a Story With Heart

Top: Hollister, Marshalls
Skirt: Modcloth
Shoes: Betseyville, Macy's
Bag: Candie's, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Rampage, Boscov's
Scarf: Express

Tank: Candie's, Kohl's
Tee: Kohl's
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Betseyville, J. C. Penney's
Bag: Princess Vera, Kohl's
Cherry scarf: A. C. Moore
Sunglasses: Candie's, Kohl's
Polka dot scarf: Wet Seal

Jacket: Material Girl, Macy's
Tank: Mossimo, Target
Skirt: Kohl's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Marshalls
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

They say there's nothing new under the sun, and once in a while, they're right.  Years ago, I noticed fellow Etsians selling jewelry made from those kooky Japanese puzzle erasers.  Frilly desserts, fast food, fruits, and more dangled from necklaces and winked from rings, and I, for one, was charmed. Having amassed my own collection of the offbeat office supplies, I started making my own jewelry.  But because I hadn't come up with the idea, I didn't feel right about selling the pieces.  I was so staunch in this view that I even blogged about it.  Then last month I was trolling through my supplies, dedicated to my new-found mission of using up what I had, when I discovered a whole box of the things.  "I should start making stuff with these again," I thought. I picked out the cutest ones and got to work gluing the puzzle pieces together, coating them with clear nail polish, and spearing each with an eye pin and jump ring. The process was tedious but satisfying, and I felt nearly giddy as I transformed the formerly dead weight into wearable whimsy (because really, if whimsy isn't wearable, then what good is it?).  Stringing them up with star-shaped pony beads only ignited my infatuation, and when I finished I wondered if it would really be so bad if I posted them in my shop.  After all, plenty of Etsians made eraser jewelry, just as plenty of Etsians strung beads.  Talking myself out of doing the same suddenly seemed kind of silly.  So up they went, right alongside my felt and collages and everyday beads, just another curiosity in my everything-but-the-kitchen-sink setup.

Jewelry crafts are a little like love stories, which is to say, a dime a dozen yet still singular from each other.  I recently read such a romance, Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes.  This British charmer introduces us to Louisa Clark, an ordinary girl in extraordinary clothing who becomes a caretaker to a quadriplegic, the once powerful and (still) wealthy Will Traynor.  A little bit Beauty and the Beast, a little bit My Fair Lady, and a little bit anything by Nicholas Sparks, Me Before You manages to emerge as a story that stands out from its influences.  At once workaday and full of wonder, it's much like Louisa herself, refreshingly realistic even in the thick of the most trying scenes.  I immediately thought, "Oh, this would make a great movie."  I pictured a gray-skied indie flick sprigged with sweeping countryside and classic British class drama, as gently Gothic and wry as a witty old biddy in a black wedding hat.  Sure enough, when I finished reading, I saw that it was bound for the big screen, in August 2015.  My imagination started reeling, casting James Franco as Will (on account of his snarky smarts and ability to walk the line between deep and douchey) and Zooey Deschanel as Louisa (on account of her unassuming otherness, childlike candor, and quirky clothes), at least until I learned that the cast was entirely British.  Far more sensible, I thought, quickly regrouping, to keep that thread of authenticity throbbing.  I'm not going to say much more about the story, except that it's at the same time predictable and revelatory, true to its contradictions until the last page.  It -- and surely, you must have known that I was going to say something like this -- makes you think about the meaning of life, about the paradox of fate and free will and our part in it all.  That's the thing about books; they force you to hit pause amid life's chaos, trying to teach you something that you can use when you're plunged into the chaos again.

I think all of this will be well worth the price of admission next summer.  Still, it would've been nice to learn life lessons through the lens of James Franco.  Even if he was in Planet of the Apes.